By Houston Waters, Fort Riley Public AffairsFebruary 9, 2018
HORTON, Kan. -- Officials from Fort Riley and Corvias were honored by the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas in a ceremony at the Kickapoo Indian Reservation in Horton, Kansas, Feb. 1.
The ceremony recognized the partnership between the Directorate of Public Works-Housing Division, the Kickapoo Tribe and Corvias in the execution of Operation Walking Shield, a Fort Riley commitment to transfer excess military housing units to the reservation.
Col. John D. Lawrence, Fort Riley garrison commander, was on hand to speak to members of the Kickapoo Tribal Council.
"Today we celebrate our initial success with Operation Walking Shield," Lawrence said.
"We applaud you, our friends of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, for making these dwellings into real homes."
The first family moved into their new home Dec. 11, said Peggy Houston, executive director of the Kickapoo Housing Authority. The second family home was filled Feb. 2, with another scheduled for move-in Feb. 15.
For the remaining houses, final preparations are necessary to transform these units into updated, modern and comfortable family homes. Lawrence and members of the Kickapoo Housing Authority checked the progress of renovations on the most recent home transfers during a tour of home and playground sites around the reservation.
After the homes were transferred from Fort Riley, foundations were laid and the homes were placed. But that was just the first step in the process. Electrical work, plumbing and painting are a few examples of the upgrades currently underway on the remaining homes.
Lawrence said he believes all the hard work will be worth it.
"I am extremely proud that Fort Riley could be part of such a worthwhile endeavor to repurpose excess military housing to the benefit of others," he said. "The easy thing was to bulldoze these homes at Fort Riley. When we learned of their needs, we quickly realized that the right thing to do was to transfer these homes."
Lester Randall, chairman of the Kickapoo Tribal Council, expressed his gratitude to Fort Riley and Corvias for their participation in Operation Walking Shield.
"We are very happy for what's taken place here," Randall said. "We have a lot of homes with multiple families in them, so this will really help. As you know, across America, housing is an issue. We really appreciate it."
In 2017, six homes made the more than-120-mile journey from Fort Riley to the reservation.
The final two homes are scheduled to depart Fort Riley in March. Discussions for future home donations are underway and all parties are dedicated to continuing the partnership.
In addition to the home deliveries, Fort Riley has transferred three playground sets, siding, windows and nearly 100 appliances to the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas.
The official partnership between Fort Riley, the 1st Infantry Division, Corvias and the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas went into effect May 23, 2017, with a proclamation signing in the Warner-Peterson housing area on Fort Riley.